Daniël Maritz

Jesus as an Adopted Son of God: The Heresy of Adoptionism

Daniel Maritz | 18 October 2021 | 12 min read

Alister McGrath explains the nature of heresy as follows:

“One of the more persistent themes in early Christian accounts of heresy is that it smuggles rival accounts of reality into the household of faith. It is a Trojan horse, a means of establishing (whether by accident or design) an alternative belief system within its host. Heresy appears to be Christian, yet it is actually an enemy of faith that sows the seed of faith’s destruction.”[1]

Heresies are thus aimed at denying or distorting the heart of the Christian faith.[2] These heresies, or as McGrath calls them, “rival accounts to reality,” especially revolved around the idea of redefining the person and the work of Jesus Christ. The problem with these rival accounts to reality, as it pertains to Jesus, however, is that “the subtle changing of who Jesus is here and there, all make Jesus less remarkable, less magnificent, and less of a Savior. In fact, it makes him no Savior at all.”[3] The reason for this is because many heresies regarding Jesus distort the unity of His full divine nature with His full human nature, in one way or another. For Jesus to be our true Mediator and Saviour, He “had to be both God and man,” for as “God He could reach to God, and as man he could reach to man.”[4]

Many of the heresies regarding Jesus Christ were introduced during the time directly after the lives of the apostles.[5] Since a previous article already addressed the heresy of Docetism, this article will now focus on the somewhat complex heresy of Adoptionism, which was one of the “most potent if not persistent heresies of the second and third centuries.”[6]

The What’s and Why’s of Adoptionism

Preliminary Remarks

To unpack the Christological heresy of Adoptionism, I deem it wise to make some preliminary remarks about the Adoptionists’ view of God. Given their 2nd century Jewish background, the Adoptionists were Unitarians. This meant that “there was one sovereign God,” presumably God the Father, “who had no internal relationships with other co-equal persons.”[7] Unitarians would typically overemphasise monotheism at the cost of the doctrine of the Trinity[8], and hence, the full deity of the person of Jesus Christ. These “strident monotheists” found it difficult to accept Jesus as being fully divine. To their strict monotheistic Jewish minds, “if Jesus is God, then there must be two Gods, and that was unacceptable.”[9]

The consequence of denying the doctrine of the Trinity, however, is that there is no eternally begotten Son of God. If God is only one essence and one person, then God the Father did not eternally communicate the “one, simple, undivided divine essence to the Son.”[10] Furthermore, if there is no eternally begotten Son of God, then Jesus Christ cannot be the incarnation of an eternally begotten Son of God in our human condition. When Adoptionists therefore looked at the person of Jesus, they did not see the ineffable unity of divinity and humanity made possible through the incarnation. No, they only saw “a good man, an incredible teacher, and a wonderful life model who was uniquely empowered by God to do remarkable things.”[11] Although Jesus did not lose His remarkability in Adoptionism, He did however end up losing His deity.[12]

The heresy of Adoptionism can consequently be defined as a reduction of the person of Jesus to a human figure who had acquired divine sonship by merit. His sonship is not due to a unique and eternal filial relationship to God the Father. The divine sonship of Jesus rather had a historical beginning at some point during His terrestrial life.[13] In other words, there was a time during Jesus’ life on earth that He was not the Son of God. He only attained or received His status as the Son of God “because God adopted Him to be such.”[14] The divine sonship of Jesus Christ is, in the words of Michael Bird, “not ontological but honorific.”[15] It is not by His very nature that Jesus is God’s Son, but by adoption. This adoption as God’s Son did not make Him divine, but only spiritually superior to other humans. His humanity was thus emphasised while His deity was “diminished or denied.”[16]

It must also be added at this point that upon His adoption, when Jesus became God’s Son, He also received power from God to do miraculous things.[17] The historical beginning point which marks Jesus’ adoption and empowerment is usually, but not always[18], held to be the baptism of Jesus as recorded in all four gospels.[19] God’s words “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”[20] therefore marked the beginning of Jesus’ divine sonship. As God’s Spirit descended onto Jesus in the form of a dove, He was empowered by God to start His miraculous ministry. Here, God’s Spirit is not necessarily a divine person according to the Adoptionists, but only “a manifestation of the power of God.”[21]

In their effort to explain Jesus as the adopted Son of God, the Adoptionists introduced, what some have called, “separation Christology.” This refers to a separation between ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Christ’ as two different entities. This separation serves to explain “what happened to Jesus after his baptism: the heavenly Christ descended on him in the form of a dove and proclaimed the unknown Father.” On the occasion of His baptism, Jesus, a mere man, was therefore “adopted by God as his son (the Christ).”[22] Bird has also referred to this as “possession Christology” which he defines as “a heavenly power or angel,” which as the Christ, “entered into the man Jesus” after which He “became the exalted Son of God”[23] known as Jesus Christ.

James Papandrea distinguishes between what he calls “Angel Adoptionism” and “Spirit Adoptionism.”[24] This distinction is based on the church father, Origen’s (184-253 AD) remark about the so-called “twofold sect of Ebionites.”[25] This also explains why Adoptionism is probably better known as “Ebionitism.”[26] The Ebionites were a Jewish sect whose “origins are shrouded in mystery,” without any clear trail as to their exact beliefs and texts.[27] Although this makes it difficult to directly trace Adoptionism back to the Ebionites, it will still be beneficial to consider these two groups of early Adoptionists who were supposedly linked to the Ebionites.

Angel Adoptionism

The Angel Adoptionists were the minority group within the Ebionite ranks. They “understood Jesus of Nazareth as a mere man but took the spiritual Christ to be a separate entity, specifically an angel.” This allowed them to account “for the miraculous nature of Jesus’ ministry while still holding to an essentially Jewish understanding of Christ as a mere human – possibly anointed by God but indwelt by an angel.”[28] The angel, or the Christ, was not considered to be divine or pre-existent, but remained a creature created by God as an angelic spirit.

The union between the man Jesus and the angelic Christ already commenced at the birth of Jesus since God foresaw that Jesus would be perfectly obedient to the law during His life. This made it possible for the Angel Adoptionists to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus without ascribing deity to His person. Papandrea explains that “the union of man and angel begins at conception, but this union is temporary since the indwelling angel was believed to have left Jesus alone at the cross.”[29] This cannot be classified as an incarnation since there is no union of humanity and divinity, but rather “an indwelling and an empowerment of a mere human, and then only temporarily: from conception to crucifixion.”[30] The Angel Adoptionists rejected the bodily resurrection of Jesus after His death and mainly relied upon the canonical Gospel of Matthew as their authoritative source.[31]

Papandrea summarises Angel Adoptionism as follows:

“Their Christology envisioned a savior who was the product of a miraculous conception in which a created angel… indwelt a mere human. This assumes that a distinction is made between the indwelling angel (Christ) and the man (Jesus) as two separate entities. However, neither Christ nor Jesus is divine – both are created, though the Christ may be considered to have been created in advance of the conception of Jesus. This is not an incarnation, but rather a possession.”[32]

Spirit Adoptionism

The Spirit Adoptionists also made the distinction between Jesus and the Christ, and they also denied the deity of Jesus. However, one of the big differences was that “whereas Angel Adoptionists… denied the divinity of the indwelling entity (the Christ is a created angel), Spirit Adoptionism may have allowed for the divinity of the anointing entity, since ‘the Christ’ was for them equivalent to the Holy Spirit.”[33]

This group rejected the virgin birth of Jesus and held that He was Joseph’s biological son. Although Jesus was a mere man, he “transcended the rest of humanity by excelling in righteousness” which led to His adoption at His baptism.[34] When He came up from the waters after His baptism the “Christ Spirit” came down from heaven and entered Him. The indwelling of the Christ Spirit empowered Jesus to perform miracles and also allowed Him to “be called by the title ‘Christ.’”[35] This indwelling was only temporary since the Christ left Jesus on the cross when He uttered the words “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”[36] The Spirit Adoptionists also denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus and interpreted the post resurrection appearances of Jesus as a mere “spiritual visitation.”[37]

Papandrea remarks that this view can also not be classified as an incarnation:

“[It is rather] the anointing of a mere human by the Holy Spirit, who may be divine or may also have been created… What is more, this anointing was the same as that experienced by the prophets and remains available to anyone. Indeed, the Ebionites considered themselves christs in the making and believes that by following the example of Jesus, anyone could become a christ as he did… Thus he is not unique among humanity except by the degree to which he excelled. As with all forms of adoptionism, he is the Savior by example, not by atonement.”[38]

A Stained glass window of a Church depicting the Baptism of Jesus

The Major Proponents of Adoptionism

This heresy is sometimes also attributed to an early writing known as the Shepherd of Hermas (ca. 140).[39] Bird however argues that it is “unwise” to categorize the Shepherd of Hermas as an adoptionistic text since it is the result of a “mistaken reading” thereof. He also adds that the “Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas is complicated and even incoherent.”[40]

Irenaeus of Lyon (120-202/3 AD), a disciple of Polycarp, described what might have been a form of Adoptionism when he commented on the teachings of a man named Cerinthus. According to Irenaeus, Cerinthus taught that after Jesus’ baptism “Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.”[41] Irenaeus later also connects the teachings of the Ebionites regarding the person of Jesus to that of Cerinthus stating that their views are “similar.”[42]

Harold O.J. Brown suggests that as “a distinct heresy” Adoptionism made its appearance in Rome in the year 190 A.D. with a man named Theodotus.[43] This squares up with Hippolytus’ (d. 235) mentioning of a man named Theodotus who taught that Jesus was a “mere man,” who “received Christ” after His baptism. The ‘Christ’ “descended (upon him) in the form of a dove” which “was the reason, (according to Theodotus,) why (miraculous) powers did not operate within [Jesus] prior to the manifestation in him of that Spirit which descended, (and) which proclaims him to be the Christ.”[44]

This man, Theodotus, allegedly fled from Byzantium as a leather-merchant after rejecting the deity of Jesus, claiming that Jesus was a “mere man” (ψιλὸς ἄνθρωπος).[45] When he was confronted with his denial, he responded that “he had only denied a mere man, not God.”[46] J.N.D. Kelly goes on to describe Theodotus’ view as follows:

“Theodotus held that until His baptism Jesus lived the life of an ordinary man, with the difference that He was supremely virtuous. The Spirit, or Christ, then descended upon Him, and from that moment He worked miracles, without, however, becoming divine—others of the same school admitted His deification after His resurrection.”[47]

Eusebius of Caesarea (260-339), the historian of Christianity, documents that bishop Victor of Rome (186-198) eventually excommunicated Theodotus. However, his ideas were almost immediately picked up by another man also called Theodotus who was a moneychanger, and two others, Asclepiodotus and Artemas.[48]

After this group of second generation Theodotians the “sect gradually dwindled away, but was revived again through the efforts of the man who became its most noted representative, Paul of Samosata [200-275], the bishop of Antioch.”[49] According to Paul of Samosata, the Logos was an impersonal power existing in God the same way as “human reason exists in man.” The Logos, as God’s dynamic power, became “particularly operative in the man Jesus.”[50] Jesus was accordingly inhabited by the Logos at His baptism, and “the more Jesus was obedient to God’s will, the more his soul achieved complete union with the Logos and attained divine status.”[51] Of course, the man Jesus having divine status did not mean he was God in the strict sense for Paul of Samosata. It rather indicated a “constant union with God” due to His adoption at His baptism.[52] Eventually, and unsurprisingly, Paul of Samosata was condemned at the synod of Antioch held in 268 A.D.[53]

Who Commits This Heresy Today?

The heresy of Adoptionism is still alive and well in various forms today. The Socinians, named after Laelius and Faustus Socinus (1552-1562 & 1539-1604) who built the foundation for modern Unitarianism, embraced a similar Christology than that of Adoptionism. This explains why Adoptionism is still prevalent within certain circles of Unitarianism.[54]

Interestingly, Adoptionism is vividly observable here in South Africa in a Unitarian group called Christ in Me Collective. In one of their documents, they state that:

“Jesus, the son of man, at the age of thirty was anointed by God at his baptism when the Holy Spirit descended on him and stayed on (in) him… Here Jesus became the first, and in that time, the only Son of God on the earth… A Son of God is someone whose spirit, like Jesus’ spirit, becomes one with God’s Spirit, whom God anoints, who is made a Christ by God.”[55]

While early forms of Adoptionism attributes personhood to the Christ as an angel or as God’s Spirit, Christ in Me Collective views the Christ as a “spiritual,” “godly,” and “heavenly” specie that was created by God.[56] This group also holds that the baptism of Jesus marks His endowment with “the necessary powers” to begin His public ministry. When God “anointed Jesus with His Spirit,” He made “him a Christ.”[57] According to this theology, anyone who is anointed by God with His Spirit receives the Christ specie and consequently becomes a Christ.

In New Age circles, one can also observe traces of Adoptionism, especially the separation between Jesus and the Christ: “New Agers typically argue that Jesus was a mere human vessel who embodied the Christ – a cosmic, divine entity.”[58] According to Douglas Groothuis the New Age Movement generally understands the Christ to be a “universal Presence” and an “impersonal cosmic process or principle.”[59] In this context Jesus was also only a mere man, and He, “along with many others, deserves the highest praise as a god-realized man.” In ‘Mind Science’ cults such as Christian Science “Jesus and Christ are not the same person… Jesus is the man, while Christ is the spiritual idea or element of God.”[60]

Conclusion

The question: “Whether Christ as man is the adopted Son of God?” turned out to be one of the many questions Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) thought to address. In the light of the heresy of Adoptionism, it is, after all, an important question to answer correctly. Aquinas’ answer, as he echoed many Christians before him, maintained that contrary to this heresy, “Christ is the true and natural Son of God… to Whom it belongs by nature to be the Son.” If, therefore, Sonship belongs to Him by nature, Jesus Christ as man, “can nowise be called an adopted Son.”[61]

Christianity maintains that the divine sonship of Jesus is not something which He acquired by merit, but something that belongs to Him because of His very nature. Jesus did not become the Christ at some point in time. Even a passage like Acts 2:36 cannot be used to argue for a position where Jesus was “made” both “Lord and Christ” by God during His earthly life. At His birth, by His very nature, Jesus was already both Lord and Christ.[62] Acts 2:36 only indicates an epistemological shift regarding the person of Jesus, and not an ontological one. After His entire public ministry, and especially after His resurrection from the dead, “all Israel now has tangible and convincing grounds”[63] to know the true identity of Jesus Christ as the eternally begotten Son of God who is one in essence with the Father.

Adoptionism ultimately implies that a mere creature can save another creature through being an example of how to live a meritoriously salvific life. Jesus, a mere man, was adopted by God and became the divine Christ as a result of His own progress in righteousness. This Jesus saved us by serving as a mere example and not through a substitutionary atonement after living a sinless life on our behalf. Justo Gonzalez, however, states the clear truth:

“Jesus Christ must be more than the first among the redeemed, more than the local boy who makes good. He must also be the Redeemer, the power from outside who breaks into our closed reality and breaks its structures of oppression. He must be more than the ‘adopted Son of God.’ He must be God adopting us as sons and daughters.”[64]

Suggested Readings

Bird, Michael F. Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017.

Brown, Harold, O.J. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988.

Miles, Todd. Superheroes Can’t Save You: Epic Examples of Historic Heresies. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2018.

Papandrea, James L. The Earliest Christologies: Five Images of Christ in the Postapostolic Age. Downers Grover: Intervarsity Press, 2016.

Pawl, Timothy. In Defense of Conciliar Christology: A Philosophical Essay. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2016.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.


[1] Alister McGrath, Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth (London: SPCK Publishing), 34.

[2] The term heresy is therefore reserved for ideologies which threaten the core existence of Christianity, and not for peripheral differences among Christians as for example the Calvinism and Arminianism debate.

[3] Todd Miles, Superheroes Can’t Save You: Epic Examples of Historic Heresies (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic), 5.

[4] Norman L. Geisler & Ron Rhodes, Conviction Without Compromise: Standing Strong in the Core Beliefs of the Christian Faith (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers), 54. As the second person of the Triune God, Jesus Christ did not ‘become’ a human in the sense of the divine going through a transformation process which results in a human. The correct technical phrase would be that He took on a human nature. Since His divine nature is His nature by nature, He added to Himself a human nature. These two natures are united hypostatically in the one person of Jesus Christ and in a broader context is referred to as “Conciliar Christology” (Timothy Pawl, In Defense of Conciliar Christology: A Philosophical Essay [Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press], 19).

[5] This era is typically known to be the postapostolic age. James Papandrea elaborates on this era as follows: “The apostles, along with their own disciples, were the world’s leadings experts on who Jesus was because they had known him personally or because they were there in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit proceeded to the church on Pentecost. And when they wrote the documents that became the New Testament, they were (and still are) believed to have been inspired by God. According to tradition, John lived the longest, living into the early second century. But by the late first century, any apostles still alive functioned like bishops with itinerant ministries of oversight and regional authority. This means that the beginning of the ‘postapostolic age’ (the age right after the apostles) began at different times in different places. In Rome it had begun after the deaths of Peter and Paul in the mid-60s of the first century. In Asia Minor it did not begin until the death of John. Therefore, while admitting that there is no clear or uniform beginning to the postapostolic age, we can still define it as the earliest time in the church’s history when there were no living apostles to give a definitive answer to the question that Jesus had asked: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Mt 16:13-18).” (James L. Papandrea, The Earliest Christologies: Five Images of Christ in the Postapostolic Age [Downers Grover: Intervarsity Press], 11-12).

[6] Michael F. Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmand Publishing Company), 7.

[7] Douglas Kelly, Systematic Theology: Grounded in Holy Scripture and Understood in Light of the Church, Volume 2: The Beauty of Christ – A Trinitarian Vision (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Mentor), 252.

[8] The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is one essence and three persons.

[9] Miles, Superheroes Can’t Save You, p. 102. It should be noted here that the existence of two Gods is also unacceptable to Trinitarians. To think that one must choose between monotheism and the deity of Jesus Christ is a false dilemma. The doctrine of the Trinity, and per implication the deity of Jesus, is not a compromise on monotheism.

[10] Matthew Barret, Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 161. This phrase from Barret should always be understood in the context of homoousios, i.e., that God the Son is of the same essence as God the Father. Athanasius of Alexandria expressed it as follows: “the Son is ever the proper offspring of the Father’s essence” (Athanasius of Alexandria, Four Discourses against the Arians [In P. Schaff & H. Wace, eds. St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series. New York: Christian Literature Company], p. 324).

[11] Miles, Superheroes Can’t Save You, p. 105.

[12] Alister McGrath refers to this phenomenon as a “low Christology” which is “an understanding of Jesus of Nazareth that interprets him as spiritually superior to ordinary human beings but not otherwise distinct. In this approach, Jesus of Nazareth was a human being who was singled out for divine favor…” (McGrath, Heresy, p. 106).

[13] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 7.

[14] Miles, Superheroes Can’t Save You, p. 102.

[15] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 7 (emphasis added).

[16] Papandrea, The Earliest Christologies, p. 18. Adoptionism’s rejection of Jesus’ full divine nature was not driven by a philosophy of anti-supernaturalism. Adoptionists did hold to the supernatural, however, they did not hold to the possibility of an incarnation where the supernatural united with the natural.

[17] This is why Adoptionism is also directly associated with Dynamic Monarchianism which simply “holds that Jesus is a man endowed with a special power from God, and thus in a way adopted as God’s Son” (Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church [Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers], 95-96). J.N.D. Kelly also connects Adoptionism with Dynamic Monarchianism saying that Dynamic Monarchianism is “more accurately called adoptionism.” He goes further to say that this was “the theory that Christ was a ‘mere man’ (ψιλὸς ἄνθρωπος: hence ‘psilanthropism’) upon whom God’s Spirit had descended. It was essentially a Christological heresy” (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, [London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury], 115).

[18] As discussed below, the so-called Angel Adoptionists viewed the adoption and empowerment of Jesus to be present from His birth. It did not only commence at His baptism.

[19] See Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22 & John 1:29-34.

[20] Matthew 3:17.

[21] Miles, Superheroes Can’t Save You, p. 102.

[22] Birger A. Pearson, Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press), 37. The separation between Jesus and the Christ is certainly a characteristic of Adoptionism, but also of the larger early Gnostic movement (Papandrea, The Earliest Christologies, p. 26).

[23] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 119.

[24] Papandrea, The Earliest Christologies, p. 17.

[25] Origin, Origen Against Celsus (In Roberts, A., Donaldson, J. & Coxe, A.C. eds. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second [Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company], 570).

[26] McGrath, Heresy, p. 105-106. Geerhardus Vos defines Ebionitism as a position which views Jesus as a mere man “who was gifted with the Holy Spirit at His baptism and thereby became Christ (Messiah)” (Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 3: Christology, R. B. Gaffin Jr., ed. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press], 31). In his turn, Herman Bavinck defines Ebionitism as follows: “Ebionitism, though it did hold Jesus to be the Messiah and sometimes also believed that he was supernaturally conceived and endowed at his baptism with divine power, saw in Jesus nothing more than a human being, a descendant of David, anointed with the Spirit of God and appointed king over an earthly realm to be established at his return” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic], 253).

[27] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 112. Also see p. 112-120 for more detail on the Ebionites.

[28] Papandrea, The Earliest Christologies, p. 24.

[29] Ibid., p. 26.

[30] Ibid., p. 27.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., p. 30-31.

[33] Ibid., p. 34.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., p. 40-41.

[36] Matthew 27:46.

[37] Papandrea, The Earliest Christologies, p. 35.

[38] Ibid., p. 36.

[39] See Papandrea, The Earliest Christologies, p. 29-30.

[40] See Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 107-111.

[41] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 6, § 1 (In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus [The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company], 352).

[42] Ibid.

[43] Brown, Heresies, p. 96.

[44] Hippolytus, The Refutation of all Heresies (In Roberts, A., Donaldson, J. & Coxe, A.C. eds. Fathers of the third century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, appendix. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company), 114-115.

[45] Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p. 116.

[46] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 121.

[47] Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p. 116.

[48] Eusebius of Caesaria, The Church History of Eusebius, (In Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. by Arthur Cushman McGiffert, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890], 247).

[49] Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines (Edinburgh: Banner of Trust), 78.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 123.

[52] Brown, Heresies, p. 98.

[53] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 123; Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p. 117.

[54] Although the heresy of the Socinians could not start in Italy where Laelius and Faustus Socinus were originally from, it did eventually arise in Poland where the measure of “religious tolerance” was unique for that time and consequently gave them a footing there (Brown, Heresies, p. 332). There are moments of Adoptionism visible in the Christology of modern theologians like Friederich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014) as well (See Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 8, 124-125).

[55] “One God,” by Christ in Me International (CiMI), available at https://www.christinme-international.com/2018/05/one-god/ accessed June 9, 2020.

[56] “The 7th Day” [Recorded Sermon], by Xandre Strydom, available at https://www.christinme-international.com/ accessed September 12, 2018.

[57] “What is Christ,” by Christ in Me International (CiMI), available at https://www.christinme-international.com/2018/03/what-is-christ/ accessed July 22, 2020.

[58] Geisler & Rhodes, Conviction Without Compromise, p. 58.

[59] Douglas Groothuis, Revealing the New Age Jesus: Challenges to Orthodox Views of Christ (Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press), 221-223.

[60] H.W. House & G. Carle, Doctrine Twisting: How Core Biblical Truths are Distorted (Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press), 74. One example of this can be seen in the works of Ernest Holmes (1887-1960), the founder of The Church of Religious Science. He wrote that “JESUS – the name of a man. Distinguished from the Christ. The man Jesus became the embodiment of the Christ, as human gave way to the Divine idea of Sonship” (Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind: The Complete Edition [New York: Penguin], 285).

[61] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (The Aquinas Institute, ed., Green Bay, WI; Steubenville, OH: Aquinas Institute; Emmaus Academic), STh., III q.23 a.4 s.c.

[62] R.H. Stein, The New American Commentary: Luke (Nasville: Broadman & Holman), 108. The following passages also serve to illustrate the point that Jesus was already the Christ long before His baptism:

  • Matthew 2:3-4: “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.”
  • Luke 2:11-12: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
  • Luke 2:25-28: “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God.”

[63] Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 29.

[64] As quoted by Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son, p. 129.

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